When it comes to writing online content we know we face stiff competition.
We’ve all heard that over-touted claim that “Content is King” and many institutions take that to heart – setting targets for the numbers of articles to post each day, blogs to write and how to encourage engagement.
And there’s absolutely truth to it – providing more original content for your audience can encourage readers and goes some way into boosting your visibility.
So, we diligently add in the right keywords, we follow the SEO handbook to optimise each blog post and schedule content to appear on our sites and social feeds at the optimum time to catch our desired audience’s attention. We pick a quirky picture and go heavy on the hashtags and backlinks…
… and despite all this effort the response can often be limited – and sometimes non-existent.
It's disappointing and its wildly frustrating. And why does it happen? Well, because sometimes we writers tend to get bogged down by the technical stuff.
In our endeavours to cultivate that perfect blog post designed to coincide with #InternationalWomensDay or #MondayMotivation, we forget the other crucial ingredient of writing… to compel readers.
Along with the hashtags, the buzzwords and the links, we need to make our writing irresistible to readers. We need to spark interest, capture minds and provoke a response.
After all, there’s no point in putting in the effort to get your work into the news feeds of the right people only to have them scroll on by.
For those of you craving reciprocation (and let’s face it, if you work in PR or some form of communications you live for reciprocation) here’s a few key tricks, tips and reminders for how to create content that compels your readers.
What’s your purpose?
Starting with the obvious – make sure the topic you choose to write on holds enough relevance with your desired audience.
Often, we get too wrapped up in our own goals and forget to think about the reader might want. Consider, before you begin writing, what does your desired audience needs to hear and how your own objectives can meet this.
People will only read what they’re interested in. Do your research, know your audience and work out how you can deliver what they really need – not just what you want them to need.
Provide fresh thinking
It’s no good regurgitating the same ideas as your competitors or rehashing old or ignored material in hopes that a rewrite will bring renewed attention. Your aim is to stand out from the crown. Think not about how you can contribute to a wider discussion, but how you can advance it instead. For business schools and universities this might mean locating fresh voices, new experts and not relying on those figures at the top. Be bold and direct in your language. Assertiveness demands attention and response from readers.
Think about public speakers you admire – what makes them so compelling to listen to? Many great speakers are direct, measured and unashamedly bold in their perspectives. Another tactic they use is to pose questions, pause and force the audience to reflect. The same techniques can be applied to writing too. You want to get your readers on your side, to buy into what you’re telling them and leave them wanting more. Think about your tone. You’re talking “to” someone rather than “at” them. Ask questions, share relatable anecdotes, prove the value of your words through examples and offer the opportunity for readers to consider how they might apply your advice or approach to their own lives.
For higher education institutions keen to gain greater visibility for their wealth of faculty expertise, it is sometimes not enough to highlight academic prowess – particularly when trying to engage a non-academic audience! Think instead about how research can truly impact and benefit your desired readers. Keep the language clear, use relevant (non-academic) examples to illustrate the key findings of a study, and keep your audience’s needs in mind.
Attention spans are short, and people’s time is often limited. Capturing and holding attention online is getting harder than ever. Nobody wants to read endless streams of text so mix it up a bit – add images (relevant of course!) or offer visuals or video to help explain or illustrate your message.
This last point is absolutely vital. No amount of SEO optimisation will ever make up for a lack of passion. Compelling content stirs feelings, evokes response and leaves a lingering effect on readers. Use emotive language, bold headlines and inject some personality where you can. You do not need to be sensationalist to grab attention.
Want to go further? We have a fantastic blog on how to create content that not only gets read, but becomes sought after, shared and created impact. We also have a wide range of resources on your website – why not take a look?